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In Crisis, an Opportunity: A Tribute to American Freedom

by on May 25, 2020 2:04 PM

It is the year 2020. Are we beginning to see things clearly? To clear the fog off the windshield so that we can have a better idea of where we are headed, collectively?

For many, even most, this global disruption has turned everything upside down and inside out and the future could not be murkier. It is a terrible time for those that have been sick or have cared for others, especially those who have died, and for those who have lost jobs or even their business. All tragic and my heart bleeds.

However, for a select few who have been following and researching and studying the many areas of global instability — whether from an environmental, health, economic, political, spiritual or even human rights stance (remember the Bill of Rights that the promise of America was founded upon?) — it is the moment of reckoning that finally awakens the ears to their many clarion calls.   

But far more importantly than a validation of prognostications and warnings, a new time of accelerated focus and renewed interest in their areas of expertise to help make the world a better place to live — which was always the goal.

We are entering a new epoch and times of transition are always painful, even from worse to better. As Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls." But as Forest Gump shared "My mama always said, life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get."  It all depends on how we look at things that determines what we can SEE.

These are trying times indeed and life is full of surprises, to put it mildly, and disruptions to our daily lives are never pleasant. And as everyone knows individually, things/life can get worse in a heartbeat — accidents, illness, layoff, divorce, loss of loved ones and other trials, tragedies and traumas. But never before have we experienced such trauma collectively, which in one sense is unifying. We are suddenly all in the same boat wondering, what's next? Did we just hit an iceberg?

But it is in times of testing, and especially a global “timeout,” a.k.a. lockdown, that we learn who we are and what we are really capable of, and most importantly what we really value. Where do we take a stand?  “Crisis reveals character,” as the old saying declares. It’s a time to think and reflect, and ultimately this test should renew our focus, shift our priorities and build our strength and courage to endure.

The Chinese word for crisis consists of two symbols: danger and opportunity. It’s a brilliant word picture to remind us not to focus on just the danger part, but that there is always an opportunity lurking. 

So what is our opportunity now that we are all in the same boat, hopefully putting aside political differences, focusing instead on how we can help each other and strengthen our community?

It is a Collective Opportunity [to make] Very Important Decisions (C.O.V.I.D.) on the future of our world, our country, our community, our families, our children and ourselves. We decide. Each of us has great power and collectively our decisions determine our fate and our future. 

What happens to you is part of your story. How you react to it and overcome the surprises (adversities) of life is your character and ultimately your legacy. But you have the freedom to choose because you are an American. And that freedom has been cherished by oppressed people from virtually every country in the world for centuries. 

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of this liberty and fittingly Abraham Lincoln concluded his famous little address in Gettysburg with "...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt succinctly followed more than 70 years later with, "Freedom can not be bestowed, it must be achieved."  Freedom is indeed the glory of our nation. 

So COVID-19 is not the end of the world ... but authoritative control is the end of America. Our soldiers and our military have fought for our uniquely American freedoms to defend and protect our sacred rights and every elected official, every judge and every sheriff vows to defend the Constitution which declares our rights to these freedoms. This is ultimately our American heritage: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of what we choose as 'free' people.  

Yes of course COVID-19 can be deadly and yes we need to be safe and smart about what we do, but on this Memorial Day when we honor the fallen that have died to protect our freedoms, let us not forget what those freedoms are (or in some cases were). 

So our great opportunity is to collectively make better decisions that will not only make us and our children healthier and stronger, but also to work toward healthier homes, a healthier planet and to support our local economies by supporting companies that are doing the same. And be thankful and fight for the freedom to do so.  This is the American Way to a new economy — healthier, more sustainable, localization vs. globalization — that will change everything. A "new normal" worth fighting for to make our fallen heroes proud.

We the People shall overcome. And never forget that America is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.

Thomas Meade
State College

Thomas Meade is founder and president of Room Doctor Furniture Co. in State College. A 1987 Penn State graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, he has been a local business owner for the past 27 years.
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